Chairman’s Report April 2002
Chairman’s Report to the Annual Parish Meeting
Birdham Parish Council
April 15th 2002
In the past year the Council has met eleven times. I would again like to pay tribute to all the Councillors for the time and effort they have put in to a genuinely collaborative Council, dedicated to the best interests of the people of Birdham. During the year we have been joined by Councillor Rachel Huskisson, who has brought particular professional expertise to the Council in the field of water ecology, Councillor Alan Drew, who has provided a valuable link with the Parochial Church Council as a Churchwarden, and Councillor Colin Robinson, who has unfortunately been forced to withdraw because of ill-health. We send him our best wishes for a speedy recovery. My thanks are due to all members of the Council for their attendance at meetings on behalf of the Council as well as their valuable advice in decision-making. We are also grateful to our paid employees, Betty Geary, Adrian Dover and John Talbot, and particularly to our Clerk, Saskia Heasman.
The dominant theme for the Council this year has been the plans for the Village Hall. As a result of the questionnaire sent to all residents, the involvement of the planning working group of users in producing a draft design, and a village meeting last November, a flexible structure of working groups has been set up. Their discussions have led to the formulation of a plan for a New Birdham Centre which will go into action this summer to ensure that the Council is satisfied by early next year that a combination of grants, loans, gifts from individuals and groups and fund-raising events will raise sufficient funds to take the plans forward as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Councillors who are Trustees of the Village Hall have taken the lead in planning a programme of repairs and refurbishment to the present building to enable it to continue as a resource for the people of Birdham.
We have continued to press for a more visible police presence in the village and a third community officer is to be provided for the Manhood Peninsula. We record our thanks to PC Desmond, who is retiring, and welcome PC Hicks. Our plans for traffic calming in Birdham were delayed, awaiting details of a WSCC pilot scheme on traffic in villages, but will now go ahead. We welcomed the installation of a speed camera on Birdham Straight.
Our rolling programme to upgrade the children’s playground has seen the installation of a new climbing frame and base this year and we now plan to replace the swings. We are pleased to see that the playing field is being used for junior football training. The bridge from Birdham Straight to the playing field is about to be installed.
The Millennium Collage now hangs in St James Church and the Millennium Video still produces some sales. To celebrate the golden jubilee of the accession of the Queen, the Council has commissioned commemorative mugs for children under 11 in the village and has taken delivery of a new flagpole for the village green. Councillors with specialist knowledge advised us not to proceed with a plan for new planting at the village pond but to pursue positive conservation instead. We have also supported endeavours to signpost frog and toad crossing routes on the access road to Chichester Marina.
In an attempt to make the work of the Council better known to the residents of the village, we have installed two new notice boards, one at the Church and one at Birdham Stores. We plan to issue a Newsletter to all residents every three months and we have established a Birdham website and e-mail facility. Also in the interests of transparency we have adopted, as we are required to, the new Code of Conduct for local councillors, even though we feel that its provisions are not really designed for small councils and will complicate our decision making until some of the nonsensical consequences have been sorted out.
A petition from young people between the ages of eight and fifteen in the village has drawn our attention to the need to provide better facilities for this age group. We found ourselves unable to provide for skateboarding but we decided on a pilot scheme to offer young people with free transport to the Witterings Youth Centre.
The problems of surface water drainage were not so acute this winter. Unfortunately we still have not received the report we commissioned on this subject but we note that the Manhood Peninsula Partnership, on which we are represented by Councillor Rachel Huskisson, has made this research its first priority and we shall willingly contribute information to this.
Your Council made formal responses to the WSCC Draft Structure Plan and to the South Downs National Park proposals. In both cases we found the consultative documents seriously deficient. We welcomed the general principles of the structure plan but found that the proposal to provide about a thousand houses between Fishbourne and Stockbridge had failed to show that it had taken account of local conditions and lacked any kind of vision. We rejected the proposal to upgrade the link between the Selsey road and the A286 via Wophams Lane as simply making a bad situation worse. Similarly, the National Park document offered no clear indications of how taking 64% of the land in Chichester District out of the hands of the locally elected representatives was going to improve on the present designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or otherwise benefit the community outside the Park. On an even broader scale, we found ourselves unable to respond with a clear view from the residents of Birdham on the government’s Green Paper “Planning: Delivering a Fundamental Change”. It is worth noting that the degree of consultation on documents such as these imposes an ever-greater strain on the resources of small councils like ours. In planning matters within the Parish we attempt to combine observance of the planning rules with a determination to maintain as far as possible the feeling of a rural village community. The District Council is, however, the Planning Authority.
We have continued to pursue a prudent path with the Council’s finances, which is reflected in no increase in the 2002-2003 Council Tax precept for the village. We continue to maintain a contingency fund of 70% of the precept while making provision for the Council’s legal obligations, the maintenance of the Council’s assets and the steady improvement of facilities for the residents.
Roger Tilbury Chairman